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Old Hackensack lives on, thanks to late historian
By Monsy Alvarado   - 02/07/2009

North Jersey

More Info on This Book: Hackensack

Longtime historian George Scudder had amassed hundreds of pictures, facts, and articles of the city's past and its residents before he died at age 94.

Some of the black-and-white photographs in his collection dated back more than 100 years, and Scudder worried where his memorabilia, which he kept in boxes and binders, would end up after his death.

But with the help of family friend Barbara J. Gooding and three other fellow Hackensack history buffs, many of the photographs and information Scudder had collected will live on in a newly published book titled "Images of America: Hackensack." The book, published by Arcadia Publishing, hit bookstores this week.

"I only wish that my father would still be alive to see it," said Lenore Scudder Devine. "He would be so proud A big concern of my father's was that people would take these things that were treasures to him and that they would get thrown out in Thursday night's garbage. It didn't, it hasn't, and it won't."

Gooding, with her friends and co-authors Terry E. Sellarole, Allan Petretti and Theresa E. Jones, had published a book in 2004 called "Hackensack, A Pictorial History," as a fundraiser for a non-profit organization that raises money for scholarships. But working on the second book, they said, was still a journey of historical discoveries. Pictures of the city's earliest fire department, its old train stations, first civic and sports organizations and Main Street once a destination for those looking for a weekend get-away of theater were the catalysts for hours of talks and research.

"We learned more than we thought we would learn about Hackensack," Sellarole said.

The book took less than a year to compile. When they were first approached about publishing, Petretti was ready and willing, saying he felt the first book left out much of the city's history because of space. His three friends were hesitant, mainly because of time commitments, but they decided to move forward.

"We just didn't want another drawn-out publication, because we all have separate lives," Gooding said.

They had a good place to start: Scudder's archives.

Gooding, a freelance writer, met Scudder a year prior to his death in 2004 while she was doing research for an article on the Hackensack Golf Club. Scudder chatted with her about the past for hours. Those discussions would later be the subjects of future articles for local publications; she co-authored several with Scudder.

Before Scudder died, he and his daughter had agreed to give a portion of his collection to Gooding.

"I told him if anybody should have custody of these vital things, she should because she is connected the way he was," Scudder Devine said.

Gooding, Sellarole, Petretti, and Jones, who will receive 44 cents each for every book sold, spent hours looking through the images and related information to decide what to include in the book. Some pictures took some work to figure out, almost like assembling a puzzle, the writers said. At times, Petretti said, they would stand in front of a building or a location, and look at a picture in Scudder's collection of the same place 50, 60, 100 years earlier.

In the end, the four chose nearly 200 black-and-white images to fill 127 pages and four chapters. Many were from Scudder's collection, but others came from their own personal albums.

Among some of the 19th century pickings are souvenir photographs of retired city fire chiefs between 1871 to 1891; a two-story house that served as the first Hackensack Hospital circa 1890; and an 1898 picture of the Bank of Bergen County, located on Main Street. The bank building is now home to law offices.

The authors also included some family photographs. Sellerole, whose family has lived in Hackensack for decades, included shots of his grandfather, grandmother, father, and aunts and uncles. Meanwhile, Petretti included a 1953 picture of himself as a youngster, shopping with his mother and sister at Red's Italian Food Market, which catered to the growing Italian-American community in the area.

Jones, a middle-school teacher, and Gooding said they hope the book will teach youngsters about the rich history of Hackensack, including the many immigrant families that have called the city home. They said they want to give city residents of all ages and all backgrounds some common knowledge of their hometown.

"I'm hoping the city and everybody else learns a little bit more," Jones said.

Buy It Now: Hackensack $21.99

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